Dublin Declaration Pledges To Provide AIDS Drugs to All HIV-Positive People in Eastern Europe, Central Asia by 2010
Representatives from 55 European and Asian countries on Tuesday afternoon in Dublin, Ireland, are expected to sign a declaration calling for increased funding and support for the fight against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Reuters reports (Long, Reuters, 2/23). The United Nations Development Programme last week said that the regions have the world's fastest growing HIV epidemics -- the number of HIV-positive people in the regions has increased from about 30,000 in 1998 to as many as 1.5 million. The declaration is the culmination of a two-day conference, titled "Breaking the Barriers -- Partnership to Fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia," which is being hosted by the European Union Presidency, a position currently held by Ireland (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/23). The declaration is expected to include a pledge to provide antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia by 2010 (Reuters, 2/23). A draft of the declaration pledged that by late 2005, 80% of HIV-positive injection drug users and at least 100,000 other HIV-positive people would be receiving antiretroviral treatment. In addition, the draft said that mother-to-child HIV transmission must be eliminated by 2010. The plan fits with the World Health Organization's initiative to provide antiretroviral drug access to three million people by 2005. The countries did not pledge a specific amount of money to carry out the declaration (Wielaard, Associated Press, 2/24). In addition to member country officials, representatives from UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other groups are attending the conference, which is the first international forum aimed at discussing the effect of HIV/AIDS on Europe and Central Asia (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/23).
Ireland pledged to pressure other E.U. nations to include the fight against HIV/AIDS in the E.U.'s development plan and to convince drug companies to provide antiretroviral drugs at lower prices (Associated Press, 2/24). Irish musician and AIDS advocate Bob Geldof, who was the conference's guest speaker, said that there has been "$14 billion lying in the [European Development Fund] for the past two decades" and that money could be used to fight AIDS. Ireland's Minister of State for Development Cooperation and Human Rights Tom Kitt, who chaired the conference, called on the European Union to appoint a special ambassador to coordinate the member nations' responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Other speakers included U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Annan, speaking at the opening of the conference, said that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the most globalized disease in history and that it is a "deadly mistake" to assume that AIDS is mainly an African epidemic (de Breadun, Irish Times, 2/24). Tutu on Monday criticized the Roman Catholic Church for its opposition to condoms. "It is irresponsible to say sex education and supplying condoms encourages promiscuity," Tutu said. He encouraged governments, nongovernmental organizations and churches to "speak out about condoms and safer sex" (Quinn, Irish Independent, 2/24).